HPC

Intel puts cloud on single megachip

One die, 48 cores


Intel's research team has unveiled a 48-core processor that it claims will usher in a new era of "immersive, social, and perceptive" computing by putting datacenter-style integration on a single chip.

And, no, it's not the long-awaited CPU-GPU mashup, Larrabee. This processor, formerly code-named Rock Creek and now known by the more au courant moniker of Single-chip Cloud Computer (SCC), is a research item only.

As Intel CTO Justin Rattner emphasized during his presentation (PDF) on Wednesday to reporters in San Francisco, "This is not a product. It never will be a product." But the SCC does provide an insight into the direction into which Intel is heading - and the path the company is treading is many-cored.

Rattner characterized the many-core future to be "more perceptive," saying that "The machines we build will be capable of understanding the world around them much as we do as humans. The will see, and they will hear, they will probablly speak, and do a number of other things that resemble human-like capabilities. And they will demand, as a result, very substantial computing capability."

Intel Single-chip Cloud Computer die

Not just 48 cores - 48 Intel Architecture cores

But the ancestor of those future chips, the SCC, is up and running today - as Rattner proudly pointed out while displaying a multi-die manufacuring wafer. "We're beyond the wafer level. [We have] packaged and running parts. This is not the typical Intel 'flash the wafer and then wait six months'."

The SCC is the second-generation experimental processor in Intel's Tera-scale Computing Research Program, the first being the 80-core Polaris, which it demoed in 2007.

While a move from 80 to 48 cores may seem like a step backwards, the SCC has one massive advantage over Polaris: its cores are fully IA-compliant. Polaris was a specialized beast, purely a proof-of-concept part. The SCC, by contrast, can do actual work - which Rattner and his crew proudly demoed.

One of the demos pointed directly towards the SCC's practical focus: Hadoop's Mahout machine-learning tools running an object-categorization task on the SCC with only minimal tweaking. As Mike Ryan, a software engineer from Intel Research Pittsburgh, explained to The Reg, "I didn't have to change any software. The only thing I had to do was permute some of the memory-configuration options as well as well as the distributed file-system options."

Other demos included the SCC running the compute-intensive Black-Scholes financial modeling app, a JavaScript-based 3D modeling app, and Microsoft Visual Studio compiling code for the chip's parallel-processing environment.

In other words, the SCC ran off-the-shelf, real-world software thanks to its IA compliance, and functioned in the Hadoop demo as a datacenter-on-a-chip. "The move to Intel Architecture–compatible cores gives us an opportunity to make more ambitious efforts on the programming side," Rattner said.

At 567mm2 and 1.3 billion transitors, the SCC is a hefty chip, but Rattner claims that as its performance scales - both frequency and voltage can be tweaked in real time - the SCC dissipates between 25 and 125W.

The SCC's 48 IA-32 cores were described by Rattner as "Pentium-class cores that are simple, in-order designs and not sophisticated out-of-order processors you see in the production-processor families - more on the order of an Atom-like core design as opposed to a Nehalem-class design."

Tech specs for the 45nm CMOS high-k metal gate part include four DDR3 channels in a 6-by-4 2D-mesh network. The cores communicate by means of a software-configurable message-passing scheme using 384KB of on-die shared memory.

The SCC was designed by a 40-person research team of collaborating software and hardware engineers with members in Braunschweig, Germany; Bangalore, India; and Hillsboro, Oregon. As Rattner joked, "Not only did we manage to do somewhat over a billion transistors, but we did it on three continents in time zones that are roughly 10 to 12 hours apart - in one sense, somebody was working on it 24 hours a day."

Perhaps some day in the many-core future, those 40 engineers will be supplemented by seeing, hearing, and speaking computing assistants with "human-like capabilities." ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022